30 years ago, just after getting my PhD, I entered a research lab on
linguistic, mainly dedicated to old writing such as Hebrew,
Summerian and even before.
I made at that time some personnal researches on the alphabetical order.
However I had some problems with my boss, I left the lab and my studies
on old languages have never been completed. Here what I saw.
Alas, it's 30 years old, and I have no more the material for proof and
my own memory is bad!
The fact are:
- The European alphabetical order is very old. A clay tablet, dated
around 2000 bc, has been found with almost our today alphabetical order:
A B C D E F G H I J
K L M N O P Q R S T ...
(obviously with cuneiforms if I remember, and probably from let to right).
- The oldest "book" is an accounting table, known as something like
Uruk (Muruk?) tables.
- If I remember (30 years ago ...), I had a transliteration of this book
with latin letters instead of Summerian ones. I counted the letters in
that book and classified them according to their frequency. As far as I
remimber, the decreasing order was something like:
=> An hypothesis could be:
- The alphabetical order was the frequency order of letters:
- The 2 line clay table was to be read
from bottom to top, id est was written as :
- Then the way of writing changed (something from bottom to top
changed to top to bottom), however this order did not change,
so the alphabetical did not change and became:
I am not sure about the voyels (that are not real signs in old alphabets),
however I am quite sur about the first consonants.
Surely, that frequency was not a rule, rather some intuitive estimation of
scribes! And probably, no exact position has to be expected for low frequency
If someone is able to re-count these frequency, if not yet done, that could confirm
this hypothesis that is out of any religious/philosophical/Mythic
Jacques Andre email: [log in to unmask]
IRISA/INRIA-Rennes tel: (33) 99 84 73 50
Campus de Beaulieu FAX: (33) 99 84 71 71
F-35042 Rennes cedex, France